Monday, 29 August 2011

Natural Disasters, Fear and YOU

A 5.9 earthquake in Virginia??  Hurricane Irene?  Is the world coming apart at the seams?  My son felt the Virginia quake quite strongly as far away as Toronto, the city I grew up in and where I never felt a quake in two decades of living there.  Yet that city has felt two in the last 14 months.

Of course, my son was on the 12th floor of an apartment building, whereas I was here in Ottawa and closer to the epicenter but felt nothing, probably because I was in a ground floor meeting room at the time.  The higher up you are in a building, the more you'll feel it.  

As I listened to people's random comments over the next few days, there was one common theme - earthquakes and natural disasters are becoming more frequent and it feels like the planet is falling apart around us and under us.

Fear and Your Personal Resilience

It's nearly impossible to listen to all the low level fear-mongering and not walk away with a bit of the anxiety yourself.  As a community of people committed to developing our personal resilience, this should be a big concern for all of us because fear:

  1. Raises your stress level and damages your health
  2. Makes you prone to misinterpret what's going on around you
  3. Clouds your judgment and gives rise to poor decision-making
And we are all fed an non-stop diet of fear and anxiety through the media.  You're told the economy is going down the toilet, Western civilization is on its last legs, there are super bugs waiting to eat you alive and now the ground under you is shaking as well.  

If you allow yourself to listen to all this there is almost no way you'll be able to keep your focus on cultivating inner and outer harmony in your life. 

For a little taste of Hollywood's contributions to the madness, turn up your speakers and "enjoy" this little clip:

"Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated..." 

But Is All This Really True?

Let's take earthquakes first.  Is it really true that the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes are on the increase?  Here's what the US Geological Survey has to say:

"We continue to be asked by many people throughout the world if earthquakes are on the increase. Although it may seem that we are having more earthquakes, earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant. (...) According to long-term records (since about 1900), we expect about 17 major earthquakes (7.0 - 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) in any given year." 

Just propaganda to make you feel better?  Well, considering worldwide earthquake data is available instantly at your finger tips from many sources around the world, that seems unlikely.  Moreover, a casual glance at the hard data seems to support the USGS' contention - there has been little change in earthquake frequency and severity over the past several decades.  

Some people will look at earthquake fatalities, particularly with reference to 2010, and say, "Look, it's getting worse!"  However, the fatalities are entirely a function of where the quake happens to hit and in 2010 a major quake hit Haiti, one of the most vulnerable communities on the planet, causing over 350,000 deaths.  The fact that a vastly stronger quake hit Chile later the same year yet caused only one thousand deaths because of Chile's outstanding preparedness just goes to show you what a poor measurement the number of fatalities is.

The Joys of Instant, Free, Worldwide Communications

Over just the past 20 years, our ability to identify and track earthquakes has greatly increased because there are now more seismograph stations than ever - about 8000 worldwide.  

Think about this: when there was a major earthquake in the 1980s in, say, Indonesia, you could probably hear about it on the TV news.  There might even have been a video, though not necessarily.  And if you missed the TV news, you might find it in the newspaper, though probably not on the front page.  

If that same earthquake happens today, the videos will be all over Youtube within minutes, you won't be able to open your browser without having the video in front of your eyes and then your friends on Facebook will start talking about it too.  So the subjective impression we have that disasters are happening more often is just that, a subjective impression not always borne out by the facts.  

What About Global Climate Change?

To those living in denial about the reality of global climate change I have one thing to say: call my office and we'll arrange a meeting in Toronto.  That's where I'll show you the 30' x 40' piece of turf where we created a skating rink in our backyard for about three months of the year for over 20 years.  

No one can do that in Toronto anymore.  There's not enough snow.  It never stays cold enough for long enough.  For the past 20 years or more it's been impossible to replicate what we did back in the sixties and seventies.

The British Royal Society, perhaps the world's most prestigious scientific organization, has this to say about climate change:

"There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the dominant cause of the global warming that has taken place over the last half century. This warming trend is expected to continue as are changes in precipitation over the long term in many regions. Further and more rapid increases in sea level are likely which will have profound implications for coastal communities and ecosystems."

To the climate change deniers out there, it's time to wake up and read the memo.  

An Exercise For You

Here's an exercise you can have some fun with.  This will show you whether or not the media / social media are increasing your anxiety levels.  

Days 1-3

  • Be sure to watch the TV world news and national news daily
  • Keep up with your social media contacts as well
  • Scan at least the front page of your local newspaper - even better, read a few pages 
  • Then, right after you've done that, sit quietly and see if you can detect anxiety within.  Put a number on that anxiety from 1-10, where 10 is very severe.  Write it down.
  • Then feel free to use EFT or any other method you wish to clear away the anxiety
Days 4-6

  • Be sure NOT to expose yourself to the world or local news in any form
  • Stay off social media - three days won't kill you and your Facebook and Twitter buddies will survive
  • Stay away from television, movies, Youtube, etc.  This is a total media fast.  Read something inspiring instead!
  • At the end of each day, do the same test as for days 1-3 and write down your results.
Then please feel free to share your results with us, either on this blog or by emailing our office.  We'd love to have your thoughts on all this!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger



  1. that was from the movie 2012, i believe... at least parts of it were; which, strangely enough, was on satellite television just a few days ago... which i watched. and then along comes 'irene'... coincedence or more, one has to wonder

  2. Hi Symeon - Great post and one after my own heart. I posted something in a similar vein on my blog yesterday in the aftermath of Irene. I watched about 10 minutes of the news to determine whether I should cancel a get together with my brother. In that time I was bombarded with urgent pleas to run out and buy a generator and other essential items necessary in the event of Armageddon (I believe one of the films featured in your amusing clip - I love disaster movies). I heard from so many how freaked out they were. I enjoyed witnessing the beautiful power of nature, especially as I did my morning Qigong in the still considerable windy aftermath Sunday morning.
    Gerry (from the EFT-Qi workshop)